There was one major difference between the 2016 Denver Broncos defense and the one that led them to their third Super Bowl championship in 2015. The Broncos of 2016 were gashed on the ground.

While both the 2015 and 2016 Broncos defenses finished the season ranked fourth in team defense, the 2016 defense dropped from the third-ranked rushing defense in the year before all the way down to the 28th-ranked rushing defense.

What happened?

“It was a combination of things,” defensive end Jared Crick said following Wednesday’s OTA practice. “You can’t point your fingers at one position or one guy or anything like that. We wanted to get bigger up front. We were undersized last year and we knew it.”

The Broncos lost arguably their best run-stopper in Malik Jackson when he took a six-year, $90 million offer from the Jacksonville Jaguars prior to the 2016 season. While they did their best to plug the holes, the Broncos missed having Jackson up front. Without Jackson eating up blocks, Broncos opponents went from averaging 83.6 rushing yards per game, to averaging 130.3 rushing yards per game.

If size was a problem last season, it shouldn’t be one in 2017.

The Broncos picked up 325-pound nose tackle Domata Peko and 334-pound defensive lineman Zach Kerr in free agency to help get the defense get back to the run-stopper it was in 2015.

“I guess they brought me here to beef up the run defense and rush the passer and make plays, use my versatility and stuff like that,” Kerr said on Wednesay. “I’m here to help. Whatever role they want me to play in the defense, I’m here to play.”

While the Broncos went looking for size, Jared Crick took it upon himself to pack on the weight in the offseason as well.

“It’s not an advantage for yourself to be under 275, which I was at times last year going against offensive lines in the AFC West,” Crick said. “So this offseason, I tried to gain 15 pounds. Hopefully I can gain another five before training camp. Obviously all good weight to where I can still move. I feel a lot stronger going into this summer than any of the summers I’ve been in the NFL.”

According to Crick, he will enter camp at the heaviest he’s ever been.

While big boys up front are always nice, versatility is just as important on the defensive line. Kerr brings both of those qualities to the table.

“Whatever they want me to do here, I’m open for,” Kerr said. “I’m not a type of guy that doesn’t want to play nose, or doesn’t want to play five. Wherever they want me to play on the field, I’ll be there.”

Football games certainly aren’t won in June, but according to Crick, the defensive linemen are doing what they can to put themselves in the best position to get back to being the dominant force they were just two seasons ago.

“Right now, as defensive linemen, we’re just doing what we can, getting bigger and getting stronger,” Crick said. “We’re just using the summer time to be better physically than we were last year.”